Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Clive Nolan - Alchemy Live CD (album) cover

ALCHEMY LIVE

Clive Nolan

Neo-Prog


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars The idea behind this project was not to do a progressive rock opera, but a musical in the tradition of some of the past. Clive Nolan has taken so much time in the last seven years to do "She" and now "Alchemy", that he would like to see this show take by someone else. The story of Alchemy is set in the Victorian days and is about the search of artefacts in order to unearth the secrets of alchemy. To realize that story, Nolan has to use plenty of characters dressed in ancient costumes with a choir and musicians which, for some he has worked in the past. The choir ensemble is very impressive and the singing takes a lot of space in this musical. Mark Westwood on guitar and Kylan Amos on bass are low profile, while the keyboards and drums are more up front. The musicians are a support to the singers and characters and are intentionally in the back of the stage. We are far away from the Neo-Prog genre of Arena and Pendragon here, but more into a symphonic art-rock style where classical arrangements and plenty of singing are in the heart of the show. There is also one character who is a real opera singer.

A nicely done concert by the Metal Productions crew, and this time the surround mix is louder than usual, maybe a bit too much in the back speakers. This theatrical production bring another dimension to the music, it would have been more impressive to see it live, but not everyone can go to Europe, so this is the occasion to have a good taste of this great live experience.

Report this review (#1062685)
Posted Saturday, October 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Clive Nolan's Rock Opera, Alchemy Comes To Life By Way Of A Live Theatrical Performance Complete Inside A Wonderful, 5 Disc Boxset. 

Yes. The contents inside this Boxset are nothing short of pure gold. If one is a fan of the Alchemy Musical, then there is no question that any person adoring Alchemy for its unique nature is absolutely gonna love what is painstakingly put together in this wonderful, 3CD/2DVD package. 

Firstly, it is amazing to think about how much money and production really goes into making a full-fledged musical Rock Opera. Clive Nolan and CO had to perform many many low budget performances to raise money in Zoetermeer, Holland in order to set up a grand stage production complete with lighting designers, On Stage technicians, costume and make up designers as well as many camera and sound equipment/microphone technicians. Obviously, the goal was met by the many enthusiastic fundraiser performances, and the performance of Alchemy got its full justice on Sept 2nd&4th/2013 in Katowice, Poland at the Stanislawa Wyspiańskiego Theatre. Wow. Say that ten times fast. 

The Live Performance, which you will of course see and experience wonderfully on the first DVD in full (Act 1&2) with a 5.1 surround sound digital audio format to boot, so you the watcher and listener will be carried away into the world of Alchemy through a high quality audio and stage theatre production. How's that for immersion? 

As for the cast of Actors/Singers and session musicians, the line up still remains almost the same as the list of performers on the studio album version of Alchemy. 2 line up changes have been made where The Jessamine Character played originally by Noel Calcaterra has been replaced by Soheila Clifford, who does a great job indeed playing the flighty pick pocketing, deceiving yet loyal servant to Professor Samuel King (Clive Nolan.) Also the bully, servile minion to Lord Henry Jagman (Andy Sears) Ben Greaves originally played by ex IQ's Paul Menel is replaced adequately by the younger looking Christopher Longwood, who in my opinion looks more fitting for the part and performs extremely well in the live show, especially on the track The Unwelcome Guest. Longwood's vocals are not as rough as Menel's, but still gets the job done through the use of his younger, more smooth sounding vocals.  All in all, everything else remains the same and the replacements don't hurt the quality of Alchemy's live theatrical performance; In fact, I rather enjoy the live performance of Alchemy more than the studio album version for many reasons actually. Firstly, seeing and hearing Andy Sears (Twelfth Night) live and in the flesh performing as the main villain, Lord Henry Jagman really knocked me out. Sears is nothing short of a true professional in the theatrical arts and his vocal delivery is one of the best I've seen or ever heard with in a musical opera. I thoroughly enjoyed performances of the Prologue/Overture, deception, Jagman Arrives, Treachery and of course my favourite The End Justifies The Means...the hairs on my arms and neck stood up seeing and listening to that track in particular. The song, The End Justifies The Means is my personal and absolute favourite performance of any track on the entire Alchemy project. It is simply incredible and something that will be remembered from me for many many years to come. 

Moreover, The 2nd DVD consists of some terrific and thoughtful bonus content. You get a clever and original Alchemy Advert, which is intelligently brought to life with some clever graphics and compelling storytelling. Also, we are treated to what is called 'Stings', which is a brief introduction and synopsis of each character. I especially enjoyed the one for Lord Henry Jagman "Do Not Be Fooled By His Playful Exterior, He Is Actually A ruthless Piece Of Work!" very true, indeed! Other content contains an interview with Clive Nolan and drummer Scott Higham (Pendragon), who just has such a wonderful personality and approach to music in general. Also, we as the viewer are treated to the fundraiser tributes, which is very candid live and intimate footage of a few short performances in Alchemy. Quite interesting, but not the best sounding. Lastly, and most importantly Clive Nolan discusses very candidly the "7 Themes" of Alchemy, which is an important breakdown by how Mr. Nolan was able to piece together and compose the Alchemy musical itself and how certain rythems and note progressions are tied together for repetition and unity for the Alchemy musical structure/project itself. A very wonderful, informative piece of knowledge indeed. 

As for the CD content...well 3 CDs that is. The first 2 CDs are just the DVD pressings live performance put onto compact disc...just in case you don't feel like watching the musical, but the 3rd disc is really where it's at because it contains 16 bonus tracks of unreleased material and it is very interesting to learn how some of the songs evolved into the finished products they became to be, as heard on the Alchemy studio album. Songs like, The Unwelcome Guest is vocally performed by Clive Nolan himself along with Ambush and Burial At Sea to name a few. Also, there are a few completely different tracks that were originally going to be used in Clive Nolan's first musical, "She." Some examples are tracks,"Snow Chase" "Invisable" and "The Holy Bond." All of these tracks really take you through the mind  of how Clive Nolan likes to write and conceive music in a theatrical/musical way. Honestly, all 16 bonus tracks are great as well as very interesting, and you could argue picking up this box set for this disc alone...well...maybe not quite. 

Therefore, The luscious Alchemy Box set in my opinion is an absolute must have, and it is equipped to give you an extensive and comprehensive breakdown of the Rock Opera itself both musically and storytelling wise. All in all, I cannot imagine my progressive music collection without this Box Set and I know it is sure to entertain me for many more years to come. There is no question that this is probably thee best box set of 2013 and it definitely gets awarded a masterpiece rating. The contents are rich, the artwork plus packaging is of very high quality and the photos are beautiful while the actual performances are breath taking. You can't ask for anything more, so ask yourself this question...."Do You Believe?"

One other thing, I would just like to take a moment and say thank you to my dear friend here on PA, Mr. Michael H.(Aussie-Byrd-Brother) for his wonderful enthusiasm and high class, thoughtful collaborations when discussing the mastery with me that is, Alchemy! Thank you very much Michael. Your knowledge and passion for music in general goes unnoticed. I look forward to many more Prog adventures with you in the future. 

  

Report this review (#1074179)
Posted Friday, November 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
ProgShine
COLLABORATOR
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars Clive Nolan is widely known in the Prog community as the keyboard player in Pendragon and Arena. But he also has many side projects like Caamora, Strangers On A Train, The Cast, Shadowland and of course his solo career. His newest work is called Alchemy Live (2013). The original project, Alchemy (2013), was released early this year, but it was Clive Nolan's idea to take the musical to the stages too. Alchemy (2013) is a Victorian story set in 1842 that tells the old Alchemist tale.

The album started to be written by Nolan in 2009 after his first musical She (2008) and it ended up being recorded on CD, but being Nolan involved in theater and musicals for quite some time he always intended it to go live on stage. So finally, in February 2013 a big 21 people team of musicians landed in Katowice, Poland, to stage the story of Alchemy. Aided by a handful of Prog singers and a great band, Nolan delivers a delightful piece of work.

The names involved in this project are no strangers to any Prog fan: Tracy Hitching (Landmarq, Strangers On A Train), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night), Paul Manzi (Arena), Damian Wilson (Threshold, Headspace and solo), David Clifford (Red Jasper) and Agnieszka Świta (Caamora) are the voices. And Mark Westwood (guitars - Caamora), Scott Higham (drums - Pendragon), Claudio Momberg (keyboards ? Subterra) and Kylan Amos (bass) are the band.

It's obvious that the singers are not actors and because of that the concert lacks a bit more of representation for a live event. But this leads us to the main thing here, the music! The 2 hours of Alchemy Live (2013) and its 27 songs are great and absolutely well- rehearsed and played. And the story is more than interesting with a truckload of details to sink in. The fact that each character is played by a different voice helps a lot to make you interested.

In the end each of us have its favorites voices, but for me the ones that stand out are Andy Sears, David Clifford (besides his love weak songs), Paul Manzi, Damian Wilson (he only does a small appearance, but he's always great), Soheila Clifford and Nolan himself proves to be a great singer!

Musically, Alchemy is as wide and full of influences as a musical can be. For me the strongest and the most interesting parts are when many vocals join together in counterpart melodies. On the production side, besides some weak images that appear in every new scene, the overall quality of the show is very positive and professional. The booklet of Alchemy Live (2013) is a case apart. A 44 pages one, in an old, book kind layout with all the lyrics, details and many pictures.

As bonus content on the simple DVD edition we have interviews with Clive Nolan, Agnieszka Świta, David Clifford, Scott Higham and Mark Westwood. We also have a Making Of, a Photo Gallery and Destop Images for your computer.

Recommended not only for Pendragon and Arena fans but for every musical fan around!

(Originally posted on progshine.net)

Report this review (#1075821)
Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Earlier this year I was provided with some downloads to review, and although I noted that one was a new album by Clive Nolan I didn't pay it any more attention than any of the others, as although we have known each other for many years, I wasn't aware what it was. When I eventually listened to it for the first time I was blown away, so much so that I immediately purchased the album and a t-shirt! Since then I have played at least part of the album once a week, every week. It has become the 'go to' album in the car when my youngest daughter is with me (her favourites are "Ambush" and "Burial At Sea" while I always go to "The Unwelcome Guest", "The Warning" and "The End Justifies The Means"). It is rare for me to play music for pleasure (get out the violins and handkerchiefs) as I am normally listening to the next set of albums I need to review, but there is something incredibly compelling about this piece of work that brings me back time and again. The last time I can remember an album having this much impact on me was 'Snow', and I know I didn't play that as much as I have this. But, this isn't a review of the double CD of 'Alchemy', but rather of the five disc set which is 'Alchemy Live'. Two CDs of the performance, an additional CD of bonus numbers, a DVD of the live show, and then a further DVD containing loads of bonus material which gives a real insight into how this all came together.

For those who haven't heard 'Alchemy', it is a musical that brings together prog rock with many other styles, and while the musicians are all top class, it is the singers and arrangements that steal the show. It is a story of good over evil, with Clive being the good Professor Samuel King while Andy Sears is the evil Lord Henry Jagman. For the original album Clive brought in a good number of people he had worked with previously, and then it was decided that a full-blown live performance would take place at Wyspianski Theatre, Katowice, Poland. Although this has been written as a full musical, time and money dictated that this performance would see the singers standing in front of microphones, with the band onstage throughout. Mark Westwood (guitars - Caamora), Scott Higham (drums - Pendragon), Claudio Momberg (keyboards - Subterra) and Kylan Amos (bass) do a wonderful job, with backing tracks provided by Penny Gee (violin) and Ian Stott (horn).

Virtually all of the singers who were on the album are here with three exceptions. So as well as Clive and Andy we have Agniescszka Swita (Amelia Darvas), David Clifford (William Gardelle), Victoria Bolley (Eva Bonaduce), Tracy Hitchings (Jane Muncey), Damian Wilson (Captain Joseph Farrell) and Paul Manzi (Milosh). So in Andy, Clive, DC, Tracy, Damian and Paul we have singers all used to fronting bands. The 'new' singers are Sohelia Clifford (Jessamine), Christopher Longman (Ben Greaves) and Chris Lewis (Thomas Anzeray). So, just four musicians but 11 singers, and what an incredible night this was.

One thing that I noticed when playing this is that there are a few times when a voice goes slightly sharp, which is great as it proves that if you were there that night then this is what you would have heard. Now, I can't believe that anyone is going to buy a five disc set unless they already know the material, so instead of a full track by track review, here are just a few highlights.

First off, Andy is the consummate villain. He was born to play this role, and of all those involved is the most theatrical of the main roles, and at the same time he is singing better than ever. When he hit the high notes in "Deception", which is only the second song, I knew we were on for a good night. Agniescszka is a star throughout, with incredible range and pitch, and her duet on "The Warning" with Victoria is a joy to hear. But, I have to confess that the song I was waiting for was "The Unwelcome Guest" which starts as a duet between Tracy and Christopher before Victoria and DC join in on one of the most complex vocal arrangements of the whole performance, as they all sing different lyrics and melodies. But, although it is still a standout song with a stunning performance from Tracy, I felt that Christopher's voice is just too smooth for this, and lacked the edge provided by Paul Menel in the studio. Also, it must be a nightmare to count in and Claudio was trying to help by providing some additional notes but it doesn't really come off.

Sohelia is DC's young teenage daughter, and her voice belies her age as she owned the role of Jessamine and her major solo, "Desperate Days" is a triumph. But her dad is no slouch either, and "Amelia" among others shows what a wonderfully clear voice he has. Paul plays the part of a pirate to perfection in "Ambush" and relishes the role he was given, while Damian could never be anything but the consummate professional. With his hair tied back, and beard in place, can this sailor captain really be the same singer that has fronted so many bands?

Then of course there is Clive. This was his night, the culmination of years of work, and the result is just staggering. He more than stands his ground with the rest of the singers, and given that he is normally a keyboard player in the background that is no mean feat. But, if I was to point to just one song, one line, in fact one word, that makes this indispensible to those who already have the studio album then that would be Victoria in "Treachery", where when confronted with Jessamina who she believes has betrayed them, she calls her "bitch". That one word, is sung with such power and passion that the hatred is palpable and makes this all feel so very real indeed.

Metal Mind have brought together an incredible package, with a five disc fold-out digipak, each side showing a photo of one of the singers, and a 40+ page booklet with all of the lyrics plus more photos, details of where all of the songs from the bonus CD come from. Some of these are original demos, while others are songs that never made it to the final album or morphed into something else.

Of course, as well as the music there are two DVDs containing the complete show plus loads of additional material including interviews, fundraiser footage, 'Making Of' etc. The result is something that is worth far more than the lousy 5/5 I can give it. Looking at the Top 2013 in PA, I can see that 'Alchemy' is currently at position 22 (a travesty) so there are obviously many people who have purchased the studio album, and if they love that half as much as I do then this is an absolutely essential purchase. I wasn't able to get to the Cheltenham shows in September (something to do with living on the other side of the world), but until I do manage to catch up with this wonderful cast then this is something to which I will often be returning.

Report this review (#1078429)
Posted Monday, November 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars UK composer and musician Clive NOLAN is a household name within the progressive rock universe, and after the last few years probably establishing himself as a known entity also in other circles. He is arguably best known as a member of long lasting neo progressive band Pendragon, but have also been a member of a handful of other notable acts, in addition to contributing to the works of many other artists over the years. The last few years have seen Nolan concentrating on rock operas, or musicals if you like, and "Alchemy" is the latest of those. "Alchemy Live" documents the first live performance of this creation, and has been issued as a standalone DVD and as a deluxe box set edition. This review covers the latter, which consists of 2 DVDs and 3 CDs.

This monumental box set, containing more than 7 hours of material, is one that goes straight into the books as excellent value for money. The main DVD is the best part of the package, with 2 hours of a high quality performance supplemented with an hours worth of extra material, and while I found the live CDs to be somewhat less interesting than the DVD these are excellent productions in their own right as well, especially for fans of musical I might add. The bonus DVD is a bit more of a so-so affair in its own right, but interesting enough for fans of Clive Nolan and his Alchemy project, while the bonus CD is arguably the most interesting production as far as all the additional material goes. "Alchemy Live" comes highly recommended to fans of both Clive Nolan and musicals, especially those with a soft spot for slightly tall tales, and unless you're only interested in the stage performance or you have to deal with a limited budget, this extensive box set is the one you should treat yourself to.

Report this review (#1146574)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink

CLIVE NOLAN Alchemy Live ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of CLIVE NOLAN Alchemy Live


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives